This blog gains its name from the book Steele's Answers published in 1912. I am slowly blogging through Steele's Answers, posting each Q & A in the order in which they appear (whether I personally agree with the answer or not). But, these posts come from several other sources, as well. I post particularly eloquent passages from Dr. Steele's other writings. Occasionally I post "guest blogs" from other holiness writers.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Immortality of the Soul

QUESTION: A neighbor denies "the immortality of the soul," saying that there is no such a phrase in the Bible; that after death the wicked will have a chance to repent, and if they do not repent, they will be annihilated. How is this?

ANSWER: The doctrine of the eternal existence of the wicked is found in all those passages which speak of their endless punishment in plain terms, as in Matt. 25:46, or under the imagery of "unquenchable fire" (Matt. 8:12). "Smoke of their torment ascending forever and ever" (Rev. 14:11); "the false prophet tormented day and night forever and ever" (Rev. 20:10); "eternal sin" (Mark 8:29, Revision); "eternal fire" (Matt. 25:41). There is no Scripture in proof that repentance after death is possible. The idea that God will ever annihilate a free moral agent is nowhere found in the Bible. If that is the way to secure a holy universe, God would have annihilated the devil long ago.

Steele's Answers p. 171, 172.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Life Insurance

QUESTION: Is it right for a sanctified person to carry life insurance?

ANSWER: I fail to see anything sinful in it. Like fire insurance, it is a device by which men help one another, the long-lived help those dependent on the short-lived, the widow and the fatherless. In this way, "the strong bear the burdens of the weak," though not in the form that Paul intended. I do not think that he would have condemned it.

Steele's Answers p. 171.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Irresistible Conversions?

QUESTION: Does God irresistibly convert men temporarily, suspending the free will for that purpose?

ANSWER: Never either in this world nor in that to come will he turn a free agent into a machine in order to save him. This doctrine leads to universalism, for if God, who is no respecter of persons, saves one sinner in that way, justice requires that he should save all in the same way, whether men or devils. Moreover, it implies the crude notion that the moral realm is the appropriate sphere of physical omnipotence. It also involves the marring of God's image in man by God himself, for moral freedom is the very center of man's likeness to his Creator. Man creates his own character, which in God's estimate is worth more than the whole material universe. He has the assistance of Divine grace, as a moral suasive, but not as a determining force. Saving faith is a graciously aided human act, not an irresistible grace — one of the five points of Calvinism. "Salvation through faith is not of yourselves; it is the gift of God," is the meaning of Eph. 2:8, as every Greek scholar will say. See the exegetes.

Steele's Answers p. 170, 171.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Will We Know People in Heaven? (Part 2)

QUESTION: In your recent answer to the question relating to knowing one another in the future world, you said there are texts from which an affirmative answer could be inferred, quoting Paul's words in Col. 1:28, "that we may present every man perfect in Christ." Are there any other texts of this kind?

ANSWER: Yes, II Cor. 4:14, "knowing that he that raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also with Jesus, and shall present us with you." Here the apostle expects to recognize his converts, as also in chap. 11:2, "that I might present you as a pure virgin to Christ." In Luke 16:9, Christ exhorts us to make, by a benevolent use of our money, friends, who, dying before we do, "may receive us into everlasting habitations." Here the beneficiaries are represented as on the lookout for their benefactors whom they recognize and welcome to heavenly mansions.

Steele's Answers p. 170.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

An Encouragement to Seekers of Joy

Let no one throw away his Christian experience because it is not joyful. This is what the adversary of your soul desires. Are you a servant of God, fearing him and working righteousness? Thank God and ask him to adopt you as a son. Are you adopted and have the witness of the Spirit now and then? Ask for the abiding witness. Are your peace and joy interrupted and variable? Ask in faith for the indwelling Paraclete in the plenitude of his grace. Take large views of God's mercy and benevolent purpose toward you in this life.

Let Paul's cumulative phrases in the ascription at the end of his wonderfully comprehensive prayer inspire you to ask for large things, even to be filled with all the fulness of God: "Now unto him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us." This power is the personal Holy Spirit, the fountain of supreme joy through the inspiration of supreme love. Get an enlarged view of God's love as the ground of a larger faith. To this end study not only the Bible but the Christian poets. Let this spark from C. Wesley's glowing fire enkindle your soul:

"O Love, thou bottomless abyss,
My sins are swallowed up in thee!
Covered is my unrighteousness,
Nor spot of guilt remains on me,
While Jesus' blood, through earth and skies.
Mercy, free, boundless mercy, cries."

What a tonic to weak faith is Whittier's apostrophe to divine love:

"Immortal love! forever full,
Forever flowing, free;
Forever whole, forever shared,
A never ebbing sea."

I never read Faber without a conscious uplift of soul toward God and a stronger grip of faith:

"There's not a craving in the mind
Thou dost not meet and still;
There's not a wish the heart can have
Which Thou dost not fulfill.
O little heart of mine! shall pain
Or sorrow make thee moan,
When all this God is all for thee,
A Father all thine own."

When I present my strongest reason why my petition should be granted, I quote an argument from Paul which has always prevailed and always will prevail while Jesus intercedes: "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" After so great a self-sacrifice for me what gift necessary to the highest benefit of that sacrifice to me will he withhold?

When I ask for the gift of the Holy Spirit in his fullness I never fail to quote that promise which has been fitly styled "the dawn of Pentecost," "If ye being evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?"

Where consecration is complete and faith is unwavering and desire for the fulness of the Spirit in all his offices overtops all other desires he never fails to come and bring his all-cleansing power and the joy that is unspeakable and full of glory.

Jesus Exultant, Chapter 7.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Your Joy May Be Full

To every believer did Christ give his gracious command, "Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full."

To restrict this promise of fulness of joy to only a few of the many who pray is to destroy all ground of faith for anyone. Fullness of joy was not designed to be a rare and exceptional Christian experience. Ever since the day of Pentecost Satan has been busy in all Christian lands spreading the wicked lie that only a few favorites of God, one in a thousand or a million, can be victorious over sin and permanently dwell on the sun-lit summits of assurance and fulness of joy. Alas, the majority of Christians believe this falsehood and dwell ever on the lowlands of doubt and depravity, and ascribe their wretched state to their constitution or their circumstances, in other words, to their Creator and not to their own failure to claim their full heritage in Christ. The promise of fulness of joy is to all believers today and to-morrow and forever, absolutely without exception. It is the business of your preacher to drive this lie out of both pulpit and pew where it has dwelt for ages, and to get men to believe Christ's glorious truth instead. It is encouraging to know that the truth is steadily mastering and exterminating the lie. Many are panting after a complete conformity to the image of the Son of God, crying, "Nearer, my God, to thee." Many in all the evangelical churches are claiming an experimental demonstration that the Holy Spirit can sanctify wholly and preserve blameless. Many are believing it as a doctrine and attesting it by a joyful experience. When this becomes general in Protestant churches their oneness in spirit will be complete and the prayer of our Saviour will be answered, "That they may be perfected in one." The chief obstacle to Christian unity hitherto has been a lack of love to the common Master.

Jesus Exultant, Chapter 7.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Value of Christian Joy

The notion is widely prevalent that an emotional religion must be fitful and unstable.

It is true that feeling excited by appeals to the sensibilities only, without any inculcation of truth upon the intellect, is to be deprecated. This results in a Christian character described by Christ as the stony-ground hearer that hears the word, and anon with joy receives it, but having no root in himself he endures only for a while. The failure is not to be ascribed to the joy, but to the lack of deep moral convictions resulting from a reception of Christian truth used by the Holy Spirit as a subsoil plowshare breaking up the fallow ground of the heart as a preparation for a spiritual life which will grow more and more robust as persecutions and tribulations increase.

Scholarly men are apt to think that feeling stands on a lower plane than the understanding and that it is not consistent with large thinking powers. Hence comes the error which spoils so much preaching warming at the head instead of the heart. It is thought that he who addresses the emotions and melts his hearers to tears is not so great as the master of syllogisms who welds a flawless chain of argument. Hence the tendency of the schools is to repress feeling and to intensify the dry intellect; whereas few people reason while all feel.

All popular preaching takes the line of the sensibilities. The great orators of the ages have been emotional men. Study the sermons of Whitefield, Spurgeon, Beecher and Simpson and you will find them all mastering men's wills through appeals to feeling based on truth clearly presented to the intellect. Christianity addresses the whole man. Such fundamentals as the atonement, the day of judgment, heaven and hell, are adapted to awaken a torrent of emotion so strong as to move the will to right action. Sinai trumpets its alarm to fear, while Calvary tenderly speaks to gratitude and hope.

The preacher has a message which can satisfy the strongest intellect and yet sway men of low degree, the illiterate, the barbarian, the savage. The intellectual dwarf, "who thinks the moon no larger than his father's shield," can believe in Jesus Christ, the Saviour of sinners, and be quickened into spiritual life, be filled with the joy of the Holy Ghost and be lifted to an immeasurably wider horizon of thought. Again how true is the scripture, "The joy of the Lord is your strength."

How many Christians miss the secret of spiritual power. They are weak to resist temptation, and lack power to draw others to Christ. There is much friction to overcome in themselves. The oil-can is as necessary to the continuous motion of the train as is the piston-rod, for without oiling the machinery would soon be destroyed. Christian joy is to the believer both impulse and lubrication. It is not work that kills, but worry. There is much less danger that a joyful Christian minister will wear out by his excessive labor than that a dry, unanointed, emotionless preacher will be used up by the friction of his unoiled machinery.

The joy of the Holy Ghost neutralizes physical pain, cheers in sickness, comforts in penury, lightens every burden and makes Christian labor fruitful. The joy of the Holy Spirit lifts the soul above the most depressing circumstances. Three days after the battle of Gettysburg a wounded and dying officer was found in a stable into which he had crawled, shouting happy. Without food, without water to quench his thirst intensified by his loss of blood and by the heat of July; without human companionship, with the prospect of dying alone without the means of sending his farewell message to the loved ones at home, he testified that so great was his Christian joy the days spent in that stable were the happiest of his whole earthly life. It was the presence of the Holy Ghost in their hearts which enabled Christians in apostolic times, and Methodists in the "back country" in England, whose houses were plundered and furniture carried off by persecuting mobs in the days of Wesley, to take joyfully the spoiling of their goods, knowing that they had their own selves for a better possession (Heb. x. 34, R. V., margin) here in the present life.

Jesus Exultant, Chapter 7.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Liberty of the Spirit

Many modern Christians become so highly cultivated and refined in their taste as to rebuke the spontaneous hymn breaking out in the pews, independent of the chorister's tuning fork or the organist's keynote, and to take offense at the amen or hallelujah in the congregation not printed in the ritual. They deem such freedom unbecoming the dignity and solemnity of Christian worship. It is possible that the Spirit, who dwells only where there is liberty, departs from those assemblies which attempt to imprison him in stiff forms. He desires to develop individualities by bestowing different gifts severally on whomsoever he will. Dr. Stalker says that the prophets addressed only nations, but Jesus Christ discovered the individual. This latest discovery it is the office of the Holy Spirit to create anew, preserving all original traits so far as they are innocent. Men are not at their best when pruned of all personal peculiarities. Grace is not a die which makes all souls alike like dollars dropping from the mint. There is the same variety in the new creation as there was in the original creation. There should be the same variety in the expression of Christian experience. Let not the quiet find fault with the exultant. Let all the people praise the Lord, each in his own natural way.

Jesus Exultant, Chapter 7.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Uniqueness of Christian Joy

The peace of Christ and the joy in the Holy Ghost depend on persistent, appropriating faith. The perpetual fulness of the Spirit resulting from this kind of faith is the condition of fulness of joy.

The joy inspired by the Spirit is unique. It is totally unlike natural gladness such as arises in worldly men when their corn and wine are increased. Hence it is indescribable. A simple emotion cannot be defined. You may talk forever of the peculiar emotion of the young mother who feels the first pulsation of maternal love, when her first-born child is laid in her bosom. The feeling must be forever unknown except to those who have had such an experience. It is so with every kind of emotion. We can describe it only by stating under what circumstances it arises. If you have never been in those circumstances the person who speaks of such an emotion speaks to you in an unknown tongue. The joy of the Holy Ghost is to an unbeliever as vague and meaningless as the colors of the rainbow described to one born blind.

The world is not rushing to obtain this joy, because it is to them perfectly unreal. Why should they not reject the effect when they disbelieve in the cause, the Holy Spirit, "whom the world cannot receive because they see him not" with their bodily eyes, all the organ of vision they have, in the absence of the eye of faith. The demand is sometimes made that the Christian should explain his spiritual joy in terms understood by unregenerate minds. The demand is as impossible and as unphilosophical as the description of the taste of oranges would be to a Laplander who never saw this tropical fruit. The joy of the Holy Ghost must always be attested by its possessor in language which is an unknown tongue to the unregenerate.

They can have the testimony translated to their spiritual intuition only by visiting the house of the Interpreter as did Bunyan's pilgrim. The glorious dreamer in Bedford jail was on intimate terms with this interpreter whose office it is to take of the things of Christ and to declare them to believers whose souls are open upward to receive the personal Paraclete.

The joy inspired by his indwelling is intense, "unutterable and full of glory," the highest in degree and the purest in kind which the human soul can experience in this world or in the world to come. For the bliss of heaven comes from union with God, and the Holy Spirit in us effects that union. That the joy of heaven is a continuation of the "joy of the Holy Ghost" experienced on the earth is implied in the wonderful words of Christ to the Samaritan woman, "But the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." Verily, verily I say unto you, He that heareth, i. e., continually obeyeth my word, and perseveringly believeth on him that sent me hath present and eternal well-being, his joy will be as lasting as his obedient trust, and it will be of the same kind in both worlds. The same truth is expressed in the earnest of the Spirit. The Spirit enjoyed 'here is a pledge of our full heavenly reward. But it is customary to pay the full wages in the coin with which the earnest, the money paid down to bind the bargain, was paid. This is the spirit of adoption, the first installment of heaven.

No Christian need die to have the secret of heavenly bliss divulged to him. If he claims his full heritage in Christ he has a slice of heaven for his daily rations while journeying to heaven. And this is the best surety of heaven. That was a wise woman whom I once heard in love-feast testifying thus, "I am carrying heaven with me on the way so as to be sure that I shall have it at the end of the journey." In the experience of the inward joy of the abiding Comforter the jubilant shout is often necessary as a safety-valve. But those whose sense of propriety is so extreme as to tie down the safety-valve find relief in the apostolic injunction, "Is any merry? Let him sing psalms" (James v. 18). The revisers do not limit the singer to the Hebrew psalms" "Is any cheerful, let him sing praise." Singing and making melody with the heart to the Lord is the natural expression of the heart filled with the Spirit. (Eph. v. 19)

— edited from Jesus Exultant, Chapter 7.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Kingdom Realm of Joy

"For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." — Rom. xiv. 17

But great as is the blessedness of peace, Paul intimates that the kingdom of God affords a richer banquet. We have three degrees of beatitude set before us, rising like a climax: righteousness is good, peace is better and joy in the Holy Ghost is best of all, the crowning grace which God has to bestow on believers in his adorable Son. It is the link which unites us with God. It is the first installment of heaven paid on earth in advance.

This is more than the joy which is the natural sequence of right doing. The approval of conscience is the lowest degree of the joy of righteousness. If the act be not merely right but beneficent, if we have by sacrifice benefited some person, the joy rises in quality and intensity. Hence the generous deeds of the unregenerate are to them a source of felicity. This arises from the very constitution of human nature. Happiness and virtue are not divergent but parallel lines. We are as moral beings so constituted that joy must follow the exercise of benevolence. This joy is natural. But the joy of the Holy Ghost is supernatural. It is handed down direct from the Giver of all good gifts through the agency of the Holy Spirit. It flows not in the channels of nature, but is a fruit of the Spirit. Paul intends to discriminate between the natural joy of rectitude and this heavenly joy in Christian experience by styling it the joy of the Holy Ghost. It attends his residence in the soul. For there is a mystery next to the three-fold personality in the unity of the divine nature, the two-fold personality of the believer, the human interpenetrated by the divine personality inhabiting it as his temple. This miracle of the fulness of the Spirit was first manifested in Adam in Eden when the breath of God conveyed not merely animal and intellectual life, but spiritual life resulting from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Sin dissolved this mysterious union and the heavenly personage withdrew from his polluted sanctuary. From being filled with joy pervading every capacity, Adam became desolate indeed. The supremely blessed became supremely wretched. To be sundered from God, the fountain of bliss, is hell. When sin entered the soul of Adam that deep celestial spring ceased to send up its refreshing waters, and he became the subject of intense thirst. His posterity born in his fallen image share also his tormenting thirst. They all flew from spring to spring of sensual pleasure, but still they thirsted till Jesus stood up in this spiritual Sahara and cried, "If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink." The satisfying nature and the inexhaustible abundance of the water of life are intimated in the fact that out of the believer shall flow, not drops as from a spile, not brooks which dry up "in the summer's heat, but rivers, Amazons and Mississippis of living water. Then John, in a blessed parenthesis, for which I mean to thank him when I shake hands with him in heaven, strips off the imagery and tells us in plain words that Jesus is describing the joy of the Holy Spirit, who was not yet given in Pentecostal fulness. To this fountain Jesus sets a perpetual finger-point in his last words in the Bible, "The Spirit and the bride say, Come . . . and take the water of life freely."

Jesus Exultant, Chapter 7.